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|THE QUICK AND THE DEAD:
Evergreen Cemetery offers up an urban oasis for outdoor lovers.
Best Walk Among the Dead
Though historically known as Forest City, Portland could do with more green spaces than it currently has. Sure, weíve got Deering Oaks, the Eastern and Western Proms, and a few scattered trails and wooded railroad tracks. But the green spaces in which you can truly lose yourself and forget for a moment that youíre in an urban environment are few and far between. Consider Evergreen Cemetery (on Stevens Avenue) our very own Hampstead Heath then.
At 239 acres, Evergreen is the stateís largest cemetery ó itís large enough to make the casual stroller feel lost. Established in 1855, the cemetery is home to former Portland mayor James Phinney Baxter, former Town Manager Bob Ganley, the founder of the Universalist Church on Congress Street, and countless other heavy-hitting Portland names: Merrill, Fessenden, Dow, Shepley, Sweat.
Though itís not the main entrance, the best way to start your walk is to park near UNEís North Entrance on College Street (you can usually find free parking). Follow College Street and turn right into the far corner of the campus. Behind a parking lot, you should find the northeast corner of the cemetery.
This is the oldest part of the grounds and the most scenic. Gigantic, gnarled trees twist their limbs above gravestones that have fallen over. Gravel pathways meander past crypts set in the hillside. Rusting wrought-iron fences guard decades-old family plots. You could make the trip every week and still never see everything there is to see.
Evergreen has something for everybody. There are more modern areas for walking on level, paved lanes. The hilly older part seems more like a hike in the woods. And the cemetery boasts several ponds which seem to always hold an assortment of ducks, geese, and gulls. Behind the ponds, there is also a maze of wooded trails for serious birders. When youíre done with Evergreen, across the street from the cemeteryís Wilde Memorial Chapel is Baxter Woods, which has trails stretching to Forest Avenue.
The cemetery is open until 4:30 p.m. daily. Call Portland Trails at (207) 775-2411 for more information.
Best DiCaprio Destination
In the summer, when itís hot (all two of those weeks), it can be a struggle to cool off. Not very many pools in Portland, most of the good swimming holes are 40 minutes away, and (especially Crescent) the beaches can get a little too crowded for comfort.
What to do? Find somebody with a boat, and head out to Long Island. As the beach on the back side of the island is only really accessible by golf cart for islanders, and by boat for the sea-worthy, the place usually stays pretty quiet. And thereís good incentive to get into Portland Harborís icy waters: You have to jump in and swim to shore from your boat.
How, you ask, are you supposed to get your towel to shore nice and dry? And what about snacks? We recommend you go get a dry bag from a mountaineering store. You can wrap everything up tight and just drag it behind you.
Or, like many people do, you can just stay out on your anchored boat. You could do that anywhere, obviously, but, for some reason, youíre just not cooling off unless there are a whole bunch of other people around drinking beer.
Go through the channel separating Great Diamond and Peaks islands. At the end of Peaks, bear right, then go out past Long until youíre just about at open ocean, and take a sharp left.
Best Urban Sledding
Okay, okay, youíd have to be living in a cave to not know about this one, but some of you may be spending lots of time in your basement ever since Bush was elected, so you guys can read on.
If the snow is flying, it is absolutely mandatory that you call in sick, throw on your tattered snow pants (they should have duct tape at the knees, and suspenders), grab your plastic sled and head over to the Eastern Prom. Itís the best way we can imagine of spending a winterís day.
First, the sledding is just perfect. We estimate the hillís cant to be right around 45 degrees ó not so steep as to make a train wreck actually dangerous, but steep enough that you can get some serious air launching off the jump that someone always builds at the bottom of the hill. Plus, thereís just enough run-out so that you really have to be hauling ass to wind up in the parking lot at the bottom of the hill. Once the runway gets nice and packed, you can just about hold US Olympic team luge trials.
Second, the community. Thereís something about sledding that brings people together. Never met anybody there before? Not a problem, everyone ends up grabbing ankles for a good head-first, multi-sled train down the hill anyway. Little kids ride with big kids (read: 25-year-olds), parents donít fear for youngstersí safety with strangers, and itís not a bad place to pick up a date.
Is it so inclusive as to allow snowboarders to butt in on sledding fun? It has been so far, but, really, isnít it more fun to bail off a sled at 40 miles per hour than to deal with all those straps?
Eastern Prom Sledding Hill, to the right of the basketball courts, above the lower parking lot.
Best Island Fortress
Amid the wilds of Macworth Island hides a treasure trove worthy of the tiniest of warriors. Vibrant plastic tubes spiral from a timber jungle accessible by chain ladders and tire mazes, making the Governor Baxter School for the Deafís playground as alluring to kids as its location is to their parents.
There are slides for everyone, from tall, slick ones that even dad can enjoy to a tiny hip-high slide small enough for babies to ride before they are even able to walk. There is also a set of tiny infant swings, making this the best playground in the area for the truly wee ones. A sandbox comes equipped with cars, trucks, and shovels, which are guarded by the honor system and a small band of gnomes and fairies that live in the adjoining woods ó if you look closely along the path you can see their homes.
The playground is used by students of the school, who can start attending around age one. It is also utilized by the children involved in the Communication Garden, a Waldorf-based preschool program that pairs hearing children with speech and language delays with typically developing hearing peers. The playground is typically only in use by the school from 10 to 10:30 a.m. and from noon to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays throughout the school year, and is open to the public the rest of the time, dawn till dusk.
Macworth Island Playground is on Macworth Island, reachable from Rte. 1 in Falmouth.
Best Beach: Higgins Beach
Best Bike Shop: Cycle Mania
Best Bike Trail: Back Cove
Best Health Club: Lifestyles
Best New England Sports Team: Patriots
Best Paintball Venue: Splatz Paintball
Best Place to Jog: Back Cove
Best Public Basketball Courts: Deering Oaks
Best Public Tennis Courts: Deering Oaks
Best Skiing Venue: Sugarloaf